How Automation Helps Us Solve The Problems That Matter
“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” — Elbert Hubbard
Automation gets a bad rap.
The original draft of our design principles stated “Automate everything that can be automated”. People flinched — it was seen as too harsh.
Mention automation and people make a mental jump to a transactional, robotic service devoid of warmth and humanity.
‘Going digital’ is often seen only as a move to cut costs — punishing customers with a lesser service.
It shouldn’t be that way.
Successful automation — and digital transformation — is about freeing people up to tackle the problems they don’t normally get the time to solve.
If you’ve ever been to an Apple Store you’ll have seen this in action. Apple employ a lot of people in their in-store experience — about three or four times the number employed in a typical retail outlet.
Every employee is trained to walk a customer through five steps aimed at delivering a unique experience:
A: Approach customers with a personalised, warm welcome
P: Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs
P: Present a solution for the customer to take home today
L: Listen for and resolve issues or concerns
E: End with a farewell and an invitation to return
Their formula is simple — build relationships = sell more products.
Of course Apple can only afford to do this because of their profit — and their ceaseless focus on automating anything that gets in the way of customer experience.
We’ve been running design sessions across the whole organisation since last October. Embedding our new principles and taking people out of the here and now to imagine a 2.0 version of how we work.
One of the things that’s been most heartening is people’s honesty about the challenges of working within complex systems. One colleague explained how a team had to perform a manual task 20,000 times every year.
The creativity and sheer determination employed to resolve the problem was incredible. However, the problem didn’t need to exist. It’s capable of redesign and automation.
Across the social sector we have a lot of problems and a lot of people.
50% of day-to-day spend in the public sector is on employees.
37% of working British adults say their job is not making a meaningful contribution to the world.
Only 18% of people say the jobs they spend most of their lives doing are “very fulfilling”.
An awful lot of people are doing meaningless jobs.
That speaks of poor leadership and a wholesale failure to embrace technology and new ways of working.
Imagine if we harvested all our creativity and determination and unleashed it on the problems worth solving?
At Bromford we are attempting to follow the Apple model. In our case it means putting people where the problems and the opportunities are — right in the centre of the community. In an age where people are withdrawing personalised services we are pushing them to the fore — boosting the ratio of people to customers.
Digital transformation is absolutely not about designing out people. It’s about designing out the ordinary and reserving people for the extraordinary.
Indeed , the paradox of automation says that the more efficient the automated system, the more crucial the human contribution. People are less involved, but their involvement becomes more critical.
Automation gets a bad rap, but it shouldn’t.
It makes us all much more important, not less.
Originally published at paulitaylor.com on February 24, 2017.